Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It wos the Sun wot dun him

So the Sun has come out against Gordon Brown, at the end of his Labour Party Conference. Gordon Brown quite properly replied that it will be the voters who decide the election, not the Sun (The voters of Scotland, Wales and England at any rate, since Labour lack the courage to face the voters in Northern Ireland).

Still, there is something not quite right about a newspaper making the news to this degree. I thought the papers were supposed to report the news (in the Sun's case, the gossip), and I realised that to a degree they also choose the news - but the degree to which this move on this day was calculated to puncture Labour's positive post-conference glow is just a bit too political for my taste.

As the media becomes more political, I hope that in the UK we won't see politicians ignoring the interests of the people and their own principles (for those who still have any) and tailoring their policies to gain the support of Rupert Murdoch's News International, or any other media group.

It's bad enough that they tailor their policies to the interests of companies whose boards they hope to join!

Electric dreams - missing technology

A fascinating show from the BBC, Electric Dreams is an experiment to see how one family adjusts to life in the 1970s, '80s and '90s. Their house was stripped of modern technology, completely reorganised in period fashion, and decorated and equipped with only items available in 1970. The family dressed in 70s clothes, and they they lived a decade a day, with new gadgets (like a freezer and a colour TV) arriving as they became generally available.

Life was very different then - and at times the family complained of being bored, and having "nothing to do" (except for the mother, who was very busy indeed with housework). They spent a lot more time together, eating as a family for instance, and going out together. They had to plan ahead, and phone home - no texting to say you're going to be late, or you've changed your mind.

The programme gave a fascinating glimpse of social history (initially in glorious monochrome) from the power-cuts and strikes of the 1970s, to today's increased freedom from household chores. It also illustrated some very contemporary preoccupations, such as the parents' anachronistic level of concern with health and safety, attitudes to smacking, and the relative freedom then of children to spend time outside, without today's paranoia over "stranger danger".

But there was one major media technology available in the 1970s that was curiously absent. A form of entertainment, and source of information. One that could be used even during the power cuts the family experienced, even when confined to an unheated, game-console-free bedroom "without any supper". One that was virtually omnipresent in the 70s, and that is still widely available. A technology that remains compatible with content produced many years, decades, centuries, even millennia ago. A technology popularised by an invention in Europe in the 15th century.

They had no books!

Perhaps they did, but we didn't see any. Maybe that says more about the priorities of the media people concerned than about the 1970s?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

More free lunches

There was a Drupal Camp in Belfast this weekend. No tents involved, fortunately - that last time I tried that, the air mattress deflated during the night, and I woke up lying on the ground. This was a more comfortable affair - a bunch of people talking about Drupal, doing presentations and demos, and having free lunch - two free lunches, in fact.

It was good timing really - I have been playing with Drupal a bit recently to get a website set up. It's not finished yet, so you can't see it. But I now know a few more useful tricks. It'll be ready soon. Maybe.

In short, thanks to the sponsors of the event, I am now better fed and a little better informed. The cake was a lie, but we did have special Drupal gingerbread men, and I won a frisbee. Better than winning a book, because then I'd have had to do a talk at the next event. And I got to sleep in my own bed, and didn't wake up on the ground, with only a thin tent between me and some particularly ominous clouds.

But in spite of the risk of clouds I'm still planning on going back to Greenbelt next year. Some people never learn.